...working together to attain a higher level

Please send news and comments to: gene@weiner-intl.com  

July 2016 Virginia Congresswoman Barbara Comstock met with executives and employees of IPC-member company TTM Technologies at their manufacturing facility in Sterling, Virginia. Coordinated by IPC, this visit was part of an ongoing effort to help policymakers learn first-hand about legislative and regulatory issues that impact the industry.

How big will the fallout from the Pokémon Go  phenomenon be?

Will Nintendo's smash hit force other game manufacturers to transition from game consoles to mobile app platforms to compete and remain profitable? Industry technologist and consultant Dominque Numakura thinks so. He states, "Electronic products related to the video game industry are a significant contribution to the bottom line for many affiliated with the electronics industry. This change will be disappointing for EMS companies, component suppliers. and circuit board manufactures. Engineers are constantly creating ways to deliver products and information to the consumer even faster and cheaper. Sometimes, unfortunately, the technology advances eliminates many jobs from the electronics industry." SEMI and the Fab Owners Association (FOA), an international group of semiconductor and MEMS fab owners and suppliers, announced that the FOA has become a SEMI Strategic Association Partner. The FOA is an international nonprofit trade association of semiconductor and MEMS fab owners and industry suppliers, who meet regularly to discuss and act on common manufacturing issues, combining strengths and resources to increase semiconductor manufacturing efficiencies to become more competitive. As a SEMI Strategic Association Partner within SEMI, the FOA will retain its own governance and autonomy with regard to charter and activities. A SEMI representative will serve as executive director of the FOA. The new relationship is expected to reduce the FOA’s association management costs.

As the industry has changed, SEMI has adapted,” said Denny McGuirk, president and CEO of SEMI. "Our members requested SEMI  provide more platforms and opportunities for pre-competitive collaboration with industry segments throughout the electronics manufacturing supply chain. We developed the Strategic Association Partnership as a hub and spoke linkage to other association communities  to provide a collaboration and connection and access to SEMI's range of member services - while enabling that linked community to conduct their business autonomously for the specific interests of their members."

Although the meetings and workshops were busy, SEMICON's exhibits seemed a bit "old hat" and lacking the excitement of past shows. It did not have the luster of a highly charged and energetic SEMICON China held just a few months earlier. To be sure, there seemed to be substantial business conducted in the South hall and the Solar event in the West hall seemed to have a stream of visitors.  But still, it seemed a bit lethargic. Perhaps this is as it should be when one considers two things - where the major growth is expected during the next few years and the continued consolidation of participants.

We DID find a fascinating new product at SEMICON. TeraView Ltd. from the UK introduced a new non-destructive method of locating defects in complex circuit packages by terahertz imaging techniques. The system could locate faults (e.g., with solder ball connections) within 5um. TeraView was spun-out of Toshiba Research Europe in April, 2001 by its co-founders, Sir Michael Pepper (CSO) and Dr. Don Arnone (CEO), to exploit the intellectual property and expertise developed in sourcing and detecting terahertz (THz=1012Hz) radiation, using innovative technologies.

China is targeting a top-10 ranking in automation for its industries by 2020 by putting more robots in its factories according to the International Federation of Robotics (IFR). This is partly a response to labor shortages and fast-rising wages. The government which has been mandating 18-20% increases for years has now put a two year wage freeze into effect. To reach automation goal, China is targeting sales of 100,000 domestically produced industrial robots a year by 2020, up 49% compared to 2015. The Chinese market is still dominated by foreign robot makers including ABB, Kuka, and Yaskawa. Chinese companies still primarily produce low- to mid-range industrial robots. However, they intend to catch up quickly as is evidenced by this month's purchase of Germany’s Kuka by Chinese home appliance maker Midea  in a successful $5 billion takeover bid for 86% of the company's shares.

I had just finished reading the above news from Reuters on my flight to SEMICON when the passenger next to me on the flight decided to engage me in conversation. He turned out to be on his way to China via SFO to his company’s Shanghai office for several weeks. He was from a Northeast wireless speaker company. His mission was to help his Chinese contract manufacturer automate. They had already begun to install 5 axis robots to pick, place and fasten a variety of large and small parts for the speaker assembly. He stated that expected labor savings would be 20 to 30%, but that more importantly, improvements in yield and in quality had already been achieved. Productivity gains were also expected by the completion of the installation. I asked if the company were to start with an automated facility would it still choose China, another country, or the U.S. He said, taxes aside, that would be a tough call.

Do you remember Aquamer® DFR ?

The dry film photoresist originally introduced by Hercules several decades ago has resurfaced in China at the astounding reported low price of $0.07 per square foot including VAT. It comes with reports of less than perfect quality and the inability to produce patterns finer than 100um lines and spaces with good yields.

Nano Dimension Ltd has completed the development of the initial version of its software package, which will be integrated in the company's DragonFly 2020 3D printer. The new 3D printer, which is currently in development, will use proprietary inks and integrated software to quickly create fully functioning printed circuit board (PCB) prototypes. The software package, called 'Switch', enables preparation of production files of printed electronic circuits for the 3D printer. It supports customary formats in the electronics industry such as Gerber files, as well as via and drill files. WACKER, the Munich-based chemical company, will be showcasing a world first in its booth at the 20th International Trade Fair for Plastics and Rubber: the first industrial 3D printer for silicones. The high-tech device – called ACEO® Imagine Series K – will be in operation throughout the entire tradeshow in Düsseldorf, Germany, from October 19 to 26, 2016.

The inventor of 3D monolithic chip technology back in 2010, BeSang Inc., claims to have since created a superior three-dimensional (3D) architecture for NAND flash. Frustrated with licensee Hynix's slow implementation of its monolithic 3D technology, BeSang is opening the door to partnerships with other memory houses, as well as offering to contract-fab the chips for resale by others, at a price that reportedly reduces the cost-per-bit of 3D NAND from over 20¢ to about 2¢ per gigabyte.

DARPA’s newest program is making a bid to usher in a fresh dimension of technology miniaturization by challenging the technology community to integrate the collective functions hosted by an entire PCB onto a device approaching the size of a single chip, The new Common Heterogeneous Integration and Intellectual Property (IP) Reuse Strategies Program (CHIPS) will try to push the massive amount of integration you typically get on a printed circuit board down into an even more compact format. It is all about devising a physical library of component chips, or chiplets, that can be assemble in a modular fashion. DARPA has posted a Request for Information (RFI), designated on fbo.gov as DARPA-SN-16-50, to harvest ideas at the front-end of the program from expert and industry players so that the CHIPS team can hone the details of the program in ways that would facilitate graceful incorporation of these new approaches within existing commercial semiconductor foundries and electronics fabrication facilities. The CHIPS team expects to use input from the RFI and a workshop anticipated to occur later this summer to prepare a Broad Agency Announcement (BAA). The BAA, which will also be posted on fbo.gov, will specify the program’s technical goals and how potential performers can submit proposals. (Source: DARPA) 

OKI has entered into an agreement with Nippon Avionics Co., Ltd. (Avio) to transfer Avio’s printed circuit board business to OKI. The two companies will start negotiations on technologies and facilities transfer and a range of certifications beginning October 1, 2016 with a view to completing the business transfer by March 31, 2018. Most of Avio’s printed circuit board business will be transferred to OKI Printed Circuits and OKI Circuit Technology, both are the OKI’s EMS business sites, who will continue the transferred business.

The surface mount technology market is expected to be worth $4,730.5 million by 2020 at an estimated CAGR of 9.84% according to a study by Fast Market Research. SMT placement equipment represents the largest product market driven by the miniaturization trend, which has resulted in need for higher accuracy in the placement of semiconductor active components such as transistors and diodes among others. The market for inspection equipment segment is expected to grow at a faster rate due to an increase in use of small-sized components and optoelectronics which would force the electronics assemblers to invest in inspection equipment during the forecast period.

Tanaka Kikinzoku Kogyo K.K., one of the core companies of the Tanaka Precious Metals group based in Japan, announced that it has signed a contract to purchase 100 percent of the outstanding shares of the Swiss-based Metalor Technologies International SA, a company also active in the precious metals markets. The acquisition will give Tanaka (also parent of Electroplating Engineers of Japan (EEJA)) a global reach for its refining business, manufacture of electrical contacts, and its electroplating solutions and equipment. Metalor, with its 1,300 employees absorbed Englehard and NECC Coatings during its growth. Tanaka had joint ventures with Sel-Rex and others. Tanaka was founded in 1885.

Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation (SMIC), the largest and arguably the most advanced foundry in mainland China, announced an agreement with LFoundry Europe GmbH (“FE) and Marsica Innovation S.p.A. (“I) to purchase a 70% stake of LFoundry for a consideration of 49 million EUR. LFoundry is an integrated circuit wafer foundry headquartered in Italy, owned by LFE and MI. At the closing, SMIC, LFE and MI will own 70%, 15% and 15% of the corporate capital of the company. This represents the Mainland China IC foundry industry’s first successful acquisition of an overseas-based manufacturer, which marks a major step forward in internationalizing SMIC. The acquisition also provides SMIC with an entry into the global automotive electronics market. For the first quarter of 2016, SMIC recorded profits for the 16th consecutive quarter with revenues of $634.3 million, an increase of over 24% year-on-year.

Gene H. Weiner, author and publisher of this column, will present 6 new items of interest to the electronic packaging supply chain at the September HDPUG (High Density Packaging User Group) meeting in Nashville, Tennessee.